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TideWriters Tales
Sailing~A Feeling Not a Sport
by Richard Moylan Jr

     I had just left Cooperís Dock heading out of Little Bay towards the west and the setting sun. It was the night of the full moon. I make it a point to be sailing when the full moon comes up. This particular evening, I had gotten an early start and was able to enjoy a beautiful sun set! The wind was blowing from the south west at about ten miles an hour. I was moving along at about five knots when I looked toward the sun. What I saw was breathtaking! There were two large sail boats coming straight towards me. They were about a mile away and both looked to be around fifty footers. Actually the two boats were just silhouettes sitting in front of the setting sun. Both boats were listing exactly the same at about fifteen degrees and the sun was centered directly between them. It was definitely a Kodak moment! At that moment I thought to myself, life canít get any better! 

     Just then something caught my eye. I couldnít believe it! Life got better! Swimming about twenty feet to the starboard of my boat were a pair of Dolphins. I had never seen Dolphins up in Little Bay. As I turned to watch them swim by I looked over my shoulder and saw that the moon was cresting the eastern horizon. I turned back just in time to see the sun disappear into the west. I saw the moon come up and the sun go down at the same time. It was unbelievable! At first the moon seemed as bright as the sun. As the moon climbed higher into the sky it changed from a bright orange to a glowing pearl white. A small group of pelicans flew between me and the moon. They were hugging the surface flying only a foot or so above it. Thatís when it happened. I started crying, an uncontrollable cry. I cried like a baby! I could not stop. I was shedding tears of overwhelming joy! I had not cried like that in years. It was then that I realized I had been leading quite the selfish life and did not realize how good I really had it!  Even though my eyes were full of tears they became wide open. All of a sudden everything became perfectly clear to me! It felt as if I had solved some of lifeís riddles. I felt great. I thought for a minute that I might have been saved! It was definitely a religious experience! 

     Itís been a few years since I had that experience that changed my life, I do things a lot differently today. I stopped belly aching about how bad I have it and started noticing and appreciating the life I do have. My life use to feel uncertain and incomplete. My feelings were misguided and did not know where they belonged. Today I have goals and destinations that were only dreams before. I used to have a steadfast routine, I did the same thing each day. Today I take life one day at a time scheduling my own priorities and not someone elseís! What used to be a stagnant and uneventful life is now vibrant and exiting! 

     I donít sail Little Bay any more but its memory will be with me for the rest of my life. The experience I had there that wonderful day prompted me to discover new horizons both mentally and geographically. I still find it hard to believe that the simple act of sailing and some unique timing of nature instantly changed my life forever. Today when I sail, I sometimes find myself anticipating some kind of life changing event. This makes every sailing experience exiting regardless of wind speed. My sail boat has become an escape, a retreat, a tool, a lot more than just a boat. Itís my Psychiatrist. I always feel better after a sail.

     When I look back over my sailing experiences, I find it hard to believe that I came as far as I did. I started sailing at the request of visually challenged sailor. Yes, a blind man. He was a co worker who went to Old Dominion University, took a sailing course, bought a twenty foot O Day and then realized he could not sail alone. At the time I was reluctant to sail for several reasons. I did not know how to sail, I didnít swim very well, and Captain Dave did not see very well! But I went anyway. Between Davidís knowledge of sailing and my eyes we set sail and learned together. We managed to sail some of the busiest commercial channels in the Hampton Roads area. At times I feared for my life but we always seemed to manage. We had several close calls with very large commercial vessels and could not seem to stay out of their way. As we gained experience, this problem seemed to fade. Sometimes I wonder if Dave really knew how close some of our close calls really were. 
They say that sailors are not born they are addicted. I had become addicted to sailing. It wasnít long after sailing with Dave that I had to find a sail boat. My very own boat. Unfortunately sailing can be a little on the expensive side. Most sail boats are very pricey. So I decided to start at the bottom and find a small one man sail boat. I found a small Snark that a neighbor had, and who wanted fifty dollars. At the time even fifty dollars was a bit much but was a good price for that boat. By the time the wheeling and dealing was over I managed to get that boat for a new set of boat trailer lights installed. I finally had my boat. 

     The first time I set sail in my new boat there was about a twenty mile an hour wind and I had no business being on the water! I could not maneuver the small boat in such a wind and ended up on the opposite shore. Thank God there was an opposite shore .Unfortunately it was a military base and I was promptly chased off. As soon as I hit the shore I saw them coming so the only thing I could do was get out of my boat, turn it around and set sail back to the shore from which I launched. I donít think the whole ordeal took more than twenty minutes but it took about ten years off my life! As soon as I hit shore, I removed my small boat from the water and went home completely satisfied that I survived. I also learned to pick calmer days to sail for a while.
Some people bungie jump, some sky dive and some climb cliffs to find excitement and fulfillment. I have found all that in sailing. Sailing has given me a sense of well being that I had lacked for years. It has given me unmeasurable patience, relying on wind and sail can sometimes be trying. Adrenaline flows freely at a moments notice for winds and currents can sometimes be unpredictable. While sailing, I feel a heightened level of the senses. I become very aware of my surroundings and conditions. I can feel everything, high pressure, low pressure, humidity, even the smallest fluctuation in temperature. I donít know how many times my senses have told me to haul it back to port because I felt bad weather. 

     I have found that sailing has been very personal for me. Not to many people seem to be interested in sailing with me. Family and friends always seem to be busy when I decide to go sailing. I have to admit though, it does not hurt my feelings. I donít mind sailing solo at all. Although I am puzzled? Itís hard to find a sailing enthusiast to sail with even though most marinas are two thirds full of sail boats. Where are the sailors hiding? 

     I have only been sailing a few short years and have acquired the senses that are needed to make a good sailor but I lack the hands-on experience that is also needed. I canít sail enough to build up experience! The longest journey I sailed was only forty miles or so and it scared me to death. It took a day and a half to get from Little Bay in Norfolk to The North River which is above Mobjack Bay. I had recently moved to Gloucester and my boat was still in Norfolk. I left Little Bay basically unprepared. I had just enough to make the trip, maybe two gallons of gas, a six pack of Hostess cup cakes, and a quart of Gatorade which was my biggest mistake. I sure got thirsty towards evening! I made my way up the Chesapeake with only a road map and no chart. This too was an obvious mistake. While sailing fairly close to shore I managed to find the Chesapeake Flats. In some places the depth was only two feet or so. I was forced to motor across the shallow flats for several miles. Keel down, my boat draws almost seven feet, keel up, fourteen inches. By the time I reached the York channel I was slightly delirious and becoming a little uneasy. I was sunburned, tired, hungry, there was little wind although by then I was under sail again and it looked like there was a storm coming down the York River. 

     That is when I started to contemplate turning around and heading back to Willoughby. I decided to hang in there for a while longer. I figured that I was about half way by now and turning around would be fruitless besides there was a hurricane coming in a few days and I was not going to leave my boat so far away from home. Shortly after crossing the York channel I could barely see New Point Comfort through the haze and knew that I was close to home. I managed to make it to the mouth of the North River before giving up for the evening not knowing that I was about a mile or so from my destination. It was quite dark and I would not have been able to find my way anyhow. The next morning not knowing how close I really was decided to sail towards Mobjack Marina for gas. I had about an inch in my tank. After fueling and getting directions, I finished the most exiting sail of my life. The trip was a personal accomplishment for me even though it was a short trip. 

     Today I sail in quiet peaceful waters off the beaten path. I enjoy the serenity and privacy of the area I sail in now. I can almost achieve that feeling I once experienced while sailing with the sun, moon and Dolphins. I hope that one day through sailing I will be able to go to the next level of awareness, heck while sailing Iím already guessing what is going to happen next.

 © 2004 Richard Moylan Jr. All Rights Reserved.


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